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21 Star Flag - (1819-1820) (U.S.)

Last modified: 2016-01-03 by rick wyatt
Keywords: twenty-one | united states |
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[U.S. 21 star flag 1819] image by Clay Moss, 22 February 2007

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Description of the flag

In 1819, one star was added, representing Illinois, bringing the total number of stars to 21. There were thirteen stripes representing the thirteen original colonies.
Rick Wyatt, 5 April 1998

This flag flew from 4 July 1819 to 3 July, 1820.
Clay Moss, 22 February 2007


[U.S. 21 star jack 1819] image by Clay Moss, 22 February 2007

Variant star arrangements

[U.S. 21 star flag 1819] image by Clay Moss, 22 February 2007

My chart sources are split 6 to 6 as to whether or not the top two rows of stars should be illustrated wider separated as shown at the top of this page, or in a more narrow formation as shown here.
Clay Moss, 22 February 2007

[U.S. 21 star flag 1819] image by Clay Moss, 22 February 2007

This arrangement represents a flag that I found in a flea market in Centralia, Illinois in 1989. It is a 3x5 foot cotton Valley Forge Flag Company reproduction. I have no clue as to its authenticity in terms of representing any actual period piece 21 star US flag.
Clay Moss, 25 February 2007

Rau family flag

[U.S. 21 star flag 1819] image by Dave Martucci, 11 May 2013

The only authentic 21-star flag I have ever seen (the Rau family flag) has the stars in the form of a Great Star.
Dave Martucci, 11 May 2013

Flag used at Obama inaugurations

At the second inauguration of US president Obama, two 21-star flags were used. The flags elicited several comments on the Internet about their "awkward" pattern. None of the complainers seemed to realise that's because the 5-4-6-6 pattern used is typically a horizontal pattern. But where did this curious pattern come from?
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 8 May 2013

A high resolution photo of the 2009 inauguration shows that the 5-4-6-6 arrangement of stars was used then also.
Ned Smith, 8 May 2013

The flags in question are indeed somewhat awkward in design. The design is perhaps taken from David Eggenberger's "Flags of the U.S.A." (1964) which shows it without any other documentation. Peter Hans suggested a more logical design (rows of 3-3-3-3-3-3-3 staggered) but as far as I know nothing of this design actually exists that can be positively dated to the period.

The 21-star flag, of course, would represent the admission of Illinois on 3 December 1818; President Obama having been a Senator from that State prior to his election (and the current flag also displayed would also be indicative of Hawaii, his birth place admitted to the Union 21 August 1959). Bill Clinton's Inaugurations displayed the 25-star flag representing Arkansas' admission on 15 June 1836.
Dave Martucci, 11 May 2013